04 September 2012

Moldova (and Transdnistra)

Leaving Odessa and Ukraine was for some reason more difficult than I would have thought.  I really wanted to see Crimea and did not do it.  Well, I suppose there are things that need to remain for one to return.  I did manage to finally get 'Ole Besty cleaned on the way out - one of the perks for waking up early and getting on the road.  I decided to take the more round-a-bout route towards the southwest direction then up to the Moldova border.  It was a short ride and was well worth it.
She needed a good cleaning, it had been too long
The morning ride took me to a very beautiful part of Ukraine - it is nice to see that this area was not as populated as it could be
I read that this border would take up to 5 hours.  It took me about 40 minutes to enter Moldova.  The guard was a bit funny asking if I rode my bike ever because how clean it was.  I had to laugh. I was excited to get into Moldova and to where I was planning on staying, Purcari Winery.  My friend Carolina advised me to stay the night and enjoy the wine there...I obliged.  The ride there was through rolling hills with more sunflower, corn and fruit and nut tree plantations.  I finally arrived and was hoping that someone there would speak a bit of English...but no.  Through hand gestures, I managed to get my room and order food and a 5 wine tasting bit.  After a short walk around the place, a bit tipsy, I found my way back to my room early and went to sleep a bit earlier than normal :).
At the Purcari Winery in Moldova
A bit of fine dining was very well received
The road out of Purcari back to the highway
The next day was a long one, I decided to to to Chisinau via Transdnistra and Orheiul Vechi.  It was a short ride in kilometers but the trip through Transdnistra made it a bit longer.  For those who don't know, Transdnistra is an unrecognized former soviet state between Moldova and Ukraine.  They speak Russian and they act very important.  Honestly, if you have traveled to the Stans, there is no need to go to Transdnistra.  It is very similar to an Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.  It is a police state and they like to stop foreigners with some BS reason like "motorcycles are not allowed to ride on this street" or (standing on the side of the bike) "we cannot see your license plate".  With a little laugh and a denial in giving any money, the process lasts between 10 and 30 minutes.
I first tried crossing here but it was only for locals, I had to reroute to Bender to enter Transdnistra there
Tiraspol: another former Soviet city - this one is particularly strange given that they have no exports but yet there are a lot of very expensive cars and the infrastructure of the country (roads) are in very good condition - oh, and they are maintaining the buildings 
The road out of Tiraspol - there was a cycling event this day
Not sure what the sign says but proof that I was actually here...haha
With the afternoon sun going down quickly, I exited the small break-away State and headed to the Orheiul Vechi monastery.  Monks, many moons ago settled in caves in this area.  I had seen pictures on the internet but when I arrived it was much more stunning.  I only wish I were better at capturing what my eyes see on the camera.  The place was quite divine.  I thought about staying there, maybe camping in the trees or on somebody's property but in the end, I saw that Chisinau was less than 60km away.  Luckily, the 60km was all good highway where I could drive 100km/hour.
I like these rundown buildings in the middle of nowhere - on the road to Orheiul Vechi
Orheiul Vechi - the area is very serene
Nice little village just in front of a small lake
After a full day's ride through Moldova (and ultimately traversing across all of Moldova), I absolutely was fascinated with the countryside.  The smooth rolling hills with plantations, streams/rivers, vineyards and complete open space made me feel like I was in Tuscany.  Moldova is absolutely beautiful.  It quickly climbed up to the top of the list with Kyrgyzstan and Georgia for most favorite landscape on this trip.
Chisinau - walking into downtown - quite a dramatic statue
Its definitely more Soviet than most of the other capitals I/we have been to
I was trying to papparazzi this interview while getting the central park in the background - didn't really work out well

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